MTA poised to hike fares; cut services, workers

March 24, 2009 9:45:00 PM PDT
The MTA will vote Wednesday on whether or not to turn its doomsday budget into a reality by approving a big fare hike. It is the 11th hour before the MTA votes on deep cuts and a huge fare hike, with the price of a single ride going from $2 to $2.50.

The mayor is urging voters to call Albany.

"You should call your state legislators and say, 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore," Bloomberg said.

Yet the state Senate took no action on Tuesday, basically telling the MTA, "come on, I dare you."

"We had hoped that the Senate would support our plan," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said. "The Assembly is prepared to act."

Lobbyists also hit Albany Tuesday with a last-minute appeal, but so far, there has been no success.

"So we're feeling very frustrated," said Veronica Vanterpool of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "We've been pleading with our elected officials for well over a year, as you've pointed out. And really, this is the time for action."

But some lawmakers question whether Wednesday is a realistic deadline. Why is the MTA pushing when Albany seems almost ready to help?

"It's wrong for people to be claiming that tomorrow is doomsday, that it has to be done or it's the end of the system," City Councilman John Liu said. "It's just not the case."

Fare hikes wouldn't take effect until June. Bridge and tunnel prices would go up July 11. All the cuts, such as eliminating 21 bus routes and laying off 1,100 people, would happen in the fall. It gives everybody enough time for negotiations, but the MTA isn't willing to wait.

"What we've been very clear about is that we have to vote this week if we're going to be prepared to implement the fare increase on May 31," MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

For commuters, Wednesday is an especially bitter pill. They face higher subway fares, coupled with new prices at the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North.

"It's going to hurt a lot of people," LIRR commuter Monica Satton said. "There are an awful lot of people from Long Island going to the city and back and forth. It's one more expense. Now is not the time."


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